Parachutist October 2022 Issue Cover.png

PARACHUTIST
October Issue 2022

World's 1st 10 Man 55th Anniversary 

A Galaxy of Stars
Celebrating the 55th Anniversary of the 1st 10 Way & Star Crest

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Tribute to the 55th Anniversary of the World's 1st 10 Man Star & Star Crest

By Rachael Newell Machado

The mid to late 60's was the golden era of skydiving in Southern California, the rise of relative work. The endless sunny days and mild weather made for a perfect skydive destination. There was a generation of young talent, the hot spots for jumping were Lake Piru, Lake Elsinore, Perris, Landcaster, Arvin, and Taft.  Skydive Hollywood movies came onto the scene and a core of Southern California jumpers were in these productions such as Don't Make Waves in '67 and The Gypsy Moths in '69 as well as a weekly TV show called Ripcord. The guys would film during the week and on weekends do fun jumps with their sky friends. There was certainly an exciting buzz around the drop zones in this era.

 

July 2, 1967, history was made in Taft, California. Ten Southern California skydivers locked arms and made the world's first 10-man star over Art Armstrong's Taft School of Sport Parachuting in a Twin Beech piloted by Walt Mercer. Luis Melendez Jr. SCR#149 was the cameraman and captured the perfect shot that made the cover of Parachutist Magazine in the September '67 issue. In those days the magazine would set you back a whopping .50 cents. The next weekend The Arvin Good Guys completed another successful 10 man for Time Magazine, the team accomplished two before any other team had completed any. The Time Magazine correspondent filmed from the ground and a camera was mounted on the tail of the Beech for exit shots. Unfortunately, the correspondent was unable to get an acceptable shot, being unfamiliar with locating and filming a jump run so the photo shoot ended there.  All was not lost, Melendez's shot was also featured in the center spread of Esquire Magazine, the July '68 issue. 

 

Early RW developed slower than one might think. In an interview with Pat Works SCS #1, Bill Newell SCR #3 and creator of Bob Buquor Memorial STAR CREST said, "In those days it took a long time to add another man to a star.  From the first four to the first five-man it took something like 6 weeks.  From the first five to the six it took about two to three months. And from six to eight it took about thirteen months. From eight to ten took (almost) two years."

 

Excerpt from the Rise and Demise of Arvin Good Guys: 

 

(Lyle) Cameron had heard of our outlaw reputation. On our initial jump in to Taft, as Terry Ward and I (Newell) walked back from the target, we heard Lyle exclaim, “Here come the bad guys!” Terry replied, “No, we're the good guys”, and I added, “The Arvin good guys.” From then on, the Arvin jumpers who had followed Walt Mercer’s Twin Beech were known as the Arvin Good Guys.

 

 Luis Melendez and Bob Allen continued filming many star attempts throughout the spring and into the summer of '67. There were many 7- to 9- ways, but the 10-man star remained as elusive as ever. The Good Guys weren't as intimidated by Melendez and Allen as they were by Bob Buquor, and as a result, some clowning would occasionally occur on attempts.


Allen never said anything, but Melendez was getting impatient. After one mediocre attempt on July 2, 1967, Melendez made a crack about wasting his time and maybe not being up to the task. Someone answered that we could do it anytime we really wanted to. But Melendez's put-down was what it took for us to really want to. Up we went for another attempt.

 

Terry was 8th out the door behind me (Newell). We were in steep dives heading for the formation when I flared. Terry was right on my tail, and he tried passing beneath me. We had a mid-air collision. Terry rolled on his back as he passed below, and I thought he was smiling. I was temporarily dazed and instantly pissed, but Terry had just entered seventh, and I had to get in. I made it in eighth. Brian Williams was ninth, and Paul Gorman came in last to get his SCR and make it a beautiful, round 10-man star with Melendez getting all the color shots he wanted. We were screaming like eagles. We had just made the world's first 10-man star!

 

Order of Exit:

 

Gary Young SCR #1 

John Rinard SCR #10

Clark Fischer SCR #18

Jim Dann  SCR #6

Jerry Bird  SCR #11

Bill Stage  SCR #5

Terry Ward  SCR #15

Bill Newell SCR#3

Brian Williams SCR #8

Paul Gorman SCR #29

 

Five weeks after the Arvin Good Guys accomplished the 1st 10 man on August 5th 1967, The Elsinore team The Group also successfully achieved the same record, the participants were:  Jeep Gereghty, Ray Cottingham, John Botta, Russ Benefiel, Ted Webster, Mike McFarlin, John Murphy, Garth Taggart, Kevin Donnelly and Mike Sam.  Cameraman Carl Boenish wrote an article in Lyle Cameron's Skydiver Magazine in the October '67 issue about their feat. The Skydiver article came out before the Parachutist which created some confusion early on regarding who was first. 

Shortly after The Group's success there was a healthy debate between Garth Taggart and Bob Allen discussing the ability for the Elsinore's The Group to make the 10 man again at the Rumbleseat Tavern in Hermosa Beach.  This birthed the first 10-man star competition between The Good Guys and The Group, The Old River Rats joined in so there were 3 teams.  The competition was held in Taft, The Good Guys triumphed and made the only 10-man of the meet - two perfect back-to-back 10-man stars.  For detailed first hand skydive history and early relative work world records visit: STARCRESTskydivingawards.com.

 

The 55th anniversary event:


Fast forward 55 years later on Saturday, June 18, 2022, STAR CREST hosted a 55th anniversary celebration ceremony, it was a wonderful day of reminiscing.  The comfortable 70's weather was unusually mild and the air was filled with yummy smells of carnitas and live music of yesteryear.  Gary Young SCR#1 gave a heartfelt thank you at the ceremony.  

 

Donna Wardean Dann SCR #26, SCS #53, NSCR #2394, member of The Arvin Good Guys and The Jerry Bird All Star's team as well as a STAR CREST and HOF ambassador, accept plaques her husband Jim Dann SCR #6, Jerry Bird SCR #11 and Paul Gorman SCR #29.  Donna is still actively spreading the love and good vibes throughout drop zones.  A few weeks before the 1st 10-man star Donna Wardean accomplished the 1st 9 way and the first female in anything over a 7-man on June 11, 1967 at Taft! 

 

Teressa Newell Acosta accepted the plaque for Bill Newell, Rachael Newell Machado and Teressa Newell Acosta had a sweet sister moment. 

 

Cameraman Luis Melendez Jr.'s twin brother Eddie Melendez accepted the award on Luis's behalf, Luis was unfortunately feeling under the weather and not able to attend. 

 

Elaine Baumstark Armstrong, daughter of original DZ owner Art Armstrong's accepted Art's plaque.  Elaine was deeply moved to honor her family in their huge contribution to the early record achievements in the sport of skydiving, there is so much rich history that came out of Taft.

 

The current Taft DZ owner Bevo, graciously accepted the plaque for the Taft DZ, Home of the World's 1st 10 Man Star.  

 

At the end of the ceremony Bob Celaya topped it off with the biggest cherry on top!  Bob and Judy Celaya generously and thoughtfully donated Bob Buquor's jumpsuit to STAR CREST!  This was so fitting since this year is also STAR CREST's 55th anniversary! 

 

Gary Young remembers going to the local bar with the team to celebrate this momentous achievement.  Gary was the base in the world's first 8-man star that was accomplished over Arvin, CA on October 17, 1965, as well the world's 1st 12 man star w/a 13 man hook up which was Donna Wardean. Gary was also a stuntman for a number of commercials, movies and TV series, as well as the team leader for the '86 para ski world meet in Sarajevo. He jumped with Pat Moorehead's California Aerial Circus for years and has over 8,000 jumps, Gary is also an ambassador for the HOF. Gary's advice for the new generation of skydivers, “Enjoy your friends and keep them close." 

 

Jerry Bird was a fierce competitor, breaking 24 RW world records not including team formations.  Jerry has collected metals all over the world and back again winning several national and world titles.  Jerry was team captain of The Jerry Bird All Stars, Columbine Turkey Farm, Mirror Image and Wings of Orange and helped bring them to victories such as 3 world cups in a row: '72,'73,'74 in 10 way speed star world records. One of the world records that stands out is the 1988 Roger Nelson Boogie at the Quincy World Record Convention, Jerry was in a 144 way diamond formation, the judges clocked the hold for 8.8 seconds: 144 way diamond held for 8.8 seconds on 8/8/88!  Jerry and Donna Wardean Dann are being inducted into the 2022 Pioneers of Excellence for his team representing the US at the 1970 World Parachute Championships in Bled, Yugoslavia. They earned the bronze medal and introduced relative work to Europe and the world! 

 

There were about 20 or so Good Guys so there were a fair amount of alternates so if you're late most likely you've missed the load.  Jerry rode with Brian Williams to pick up one of Brian's students, they ended up being late and missed the load, that jump ended up being the world's first 6 man star. There was a ton of talent and eagerness, to be on the load you had the golden ticket.  It's not about one individual person, it's about the group as a whole, loving the sport and having fun breaking barriers and taking it to new heights, The Good Guys broke many early world records.  What Jerry remembers most is the camaraderie that he holds dear with his sky brothers and sisters.  Jerry remembers Brian being the glue that would keep the togetherness in the group such as his weekly music appreciation night / packing parties in his living room. Instead of driving alone from LA to the desert drop zones, Brian would get everyone that lived close to each other to caravan, good music and conversation created a stronger bond. It has been noted that Jerry was one of Brian’s favorite students besides Bob Buquor.

 

Gary Young, Jerry Bird and Luis Melendez Jr. are still with us, the remaining sky pioneers have gone to greener pastures, rest in peace.

 

Military X Award

To commemorate the world's first 10-man star, STAR CREST brought back the Military X Award.

 

Award Criteria: 10-way star formation, must hold for at least 5 seconds, may complete any maneuver before or after but not necessary.  At least 5 out of the 10 stars must be active military or a veteran and state their branch on the application. If an X formation is completed with a star the recipient will receive an X in their member number. There can be up to 4 skydivers with exit grips if the X formation is completed.  If the attempt is unsuccessful and grips are used, then the jump will not qualify for the award. If the jump was accomplished before the relaunch, then a copy of the log book entry is needed to accompany the application.  There will be a special 2-digit number at the end of the member number to indicate the year it was accomplished.

 

The Golden Knights were the first team to accomplish the Military X award. This is so fitting and an honor to the Armstrong family.  In 1969 Art Armstrong's 21-year-old son Sergeant Ed Armstrong was the youngest Golden Knight at the time. The Golden Knights put a surprise spin on the dive by forming a beautiful X formation after the star. This was so impressive, it fit like a puzzle piece, the X formation was incorporated into the award as a bonus challenge. Captain of the Golden Knights, Drew Starr was asked how it came about, " Really we just wanted some way to pay tribute to STAR CREST for asking us to be the first recipients of the Military X so we figured, why not build the X afterwards to back the project a little bit and help it gain some traction."  You can watch the thrilling Golden Knight's Military X video: US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team - Military X

 

Order of Exit:

 

Drew Starr MX #1

Years as a GK: 16

Army Job: Military Intelligence Analyst

Jump numbers: 10,000+

4-time 8-Way World Champion

 

Dave Flynn MX #2

Years as a GK: 9

Army Job: Airborne Artilleryman

Jump numbers: 5,000+

2-time 8-Way World Champion

 

Mike Connors MX #3

Years as a GK: 3 Years

Army Job: Airborne Infantryman

Jump numbers: 2500

 

Mitch Stockenberg MX #4

Years as a GK: 4 Years

Army Job: Airborne Infantryman

Jump numbers: 2700

 

Daniel McKeon MX #5

Years as a GK: First Year

Army Job: Airborne Medic 68W

Jump numbers: 768

Highlight: Currently youngest GK at 21 years old

 

Griffin Mueller MX #6

Years as a GK: First year

Army Job: Airborne Infantryman 

Jump numbers: 821

 

Dominic Perry MX#7

Years as GK: 3

Army Job: Airborne Satellite Communications Systems Operator

Jump numbers: 2798

 

Rafael Torres MX #8

Years as a GK: First year

Army Job: Airborne Infantryman 

Jump numbers: 828

 

Chad Riddlebaugh MX #9

Years as GK: 3

Army Job: Airborne Infantryman 

Jump Numbers: 982

 

Ty Kettenhofen MX #10

Years as a GK: 2

Army Job: Airborne Infantryman 

Jump numbers: 1300

 

Mark Pierce MX #11

Years as a GK: 2

Army Job: Airborne Infantryman 

Jump numbers: 1358

 

55th Anniversary of the World's 1st
10 Way Celebration 

Taft, CA

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We mustn't forget our sky forefathers that lit the path for the new generation of cutting-edge sky athletes.